Keep Up Your Long Distance Relationship With Audiences

Thanks to funding from a mysterious third party, today my state presenter consortium was able to participate in a webinar lead by Collen Dilenschneider and her colleagues at IMPACTS where they discussed the data Colleen has been writing about on her blog.

If you have been following her posts, or my posts on her posts, you know that she is currently releasing weekly updates about people’s willingness to participate in cultural events. By and large, that is what she shared today, including data from¬† her most recent post on factors that will drive participation.

If anything her research reinforces a concept that has been discussed for years now — the programming doesn’t matter as much as the quality of the experience and relationships associated with your organization. While people will be willing to participate in an environment where they can exert greater control over their experience earlier than one where they feel they have to cede control (i.e. gardens/museums/historical sites before crowded theaters), every other factor she listed in the webinar and her post today are about relationships.

There will be data they will release next week showing that observing what others in ones community are doing now replaces government declarations about reopening by a slight margin as the #2 contributor to confidence about attending.  If the general tenor of the community is open to re-engaging in communal life, people are more likely to start attending sooner.

Another big factor she mentioned in the webinar and her post today was the importance of keeping awareness of your organization at the forefront of people’s minds. If you have been quiet as a way to save marketing funds, it may prove detrimental to your ability to re-engage people’s participation in the future. Just providing content on social media or sending out regular emails with status updates is better than totally hunkering down and going silent.

Dilenschneider also mentioned that the trust you engendered when making the decision to shutdown to help flatten the curve can contribute to people feeling secure about returning. If the last impressions people had before you shutdown were that you were taking steps to sanitize surfaces and keep them safe, they will feel more assured that your decision to reopen reflects a confidence that your plans and procedures will provide a safe environment.

Obviously, not everyone will feel safe about returning at the same time and the appeal of what is being offered will definitely always be a factor, even in times when risk and reward are more in balance. The overall quality of one’s relationship with the organization will always loom large.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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